As we near two and a half years of economic downturn, I’ve found some worthy examples of positive determination.
Over lunch this past spring Tina Little, owner of Queens’ Wreath Jewels on St. Armands Circle, and I discussed the dour aspects of our local situation. Tina, drinking her coffee, said with acute self-knowledge, “I’m now going back to the store and will be absolutely positive.” She wasn’t going to wear an optimistic mask; Tina was sincerely going to feel upbeat. That’s simply who she is—as evidenced by her investment in two new jewelry lines.
I’m not aware of books for businesspeople on how to effectively survive a recession. By effectively I mean not just being in business when this is over, but being healthy and poised to thrive as the economy rebounds, which it will. Perhaps the best source for guidance is studying the progress and upbeat attitudes of some local businesspeople. I’ve written about the tenacity of John Simon in moving forward with Pineapple Square. There’s also real forward movement at Nate and Randy Benderson’s vast University Parkway/I-75 corridor development involving multiple mixed-use projects with an impressive list of inked retail anchors. Pat Neal’s Neal Communities has remained active in home building by creatively adapting to the market. One example is Forest Creek in Parrish, where existing plans were modified to offer homes from $146,000 to $240,000.
The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, with general manager Jim McManemon at the helm, has big expansion plans. The Hyatt, overseen by Mark Becker, recently spent $22 million in upgrades to achieve Hyatt Regency status. And the $100 million Hyatt Residence Club on Siesta Key is proceeding with its fractional ownership project, an ideal concept for these times. Michael and Kathy Bush of Home Resource introduced their new Knoll line. And Light Up Your Life owners Susan and Moritz Inderbinen moved forward with their new building. Joe McKenna, president and CEO of the Florida West Coast Symphony, has led that 60-year-old performing arts institution into the future as the newly named Sarasota Orchestra with a new, ambitious and inspired program and communications campaign.
And then there’s the grit of Marcus and Pam Anast, owners of The Sarasota Collection. On a buying trip at a giftware show in Atlanta, they decided on items to carry in their showroom. While writing up the orders, the exhibitor’s salesperson—in hunker-down mentality—started writing ones in the quantity column. Marcus told her to stop. He wanted five pieces of each item. He later told me, “We decided we’re in business and should act accordingly.” They then invested in a new showroom.
All of these positive thinkers have rejected paralysis, stagnation and pessimism. None are Pollyannaish, but they have found ways to navigate these rough economic waters while taking calculated risks. And I sense they’ll all be winners when we come out the other side.